Education: B.S., food science technology, National University of Malaysia; M.H.S.A, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Professional background: Tan has held her current position about seven years and previously worked in economic development for the city of Monterey Park, California. Before that, she worked as marketing manager for a company that promoted clients’ products and services in Southeast Asia and Australia.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment to date? I was certified as a certified economic developer (CEcD) in 2014. Passing rate is between 28 and 33 percent, so I was thankful to pass the exams. This certification program is offered by the International Economic Development Council. There are currently less than 1,000 CEcDs worldwide and only 13 CEcDs in Arkansas. I am one course shy of attaining my certification as an economic development finance professional (EDFP), offered by the National Development Council.
What aspects of your career do you enjoy most? Helping prospective entrepreneurs and existing businesses, consulting youngsters on their career pathways, learning a lot about how the world works.
Although you’ve been working for almost a decade in economic development, did you career start in the health care industry? Yes. I worked for a while with a health maintenance organization before I stayed home to bring up our four children. Our second child, Aaron, is a special needs child and back then he was a toddler with a lot of health issues.
How did your career aspirations evolve throughout the years? Because I did not say “no” to opportunities. This attitude offered me the opportunities to work in different industries from food/dietary to health care to economic development, and along the way I picked up new things to learn and new opportunities to try new things.
What brought you to Northwest Arkansas? My husband and I came to NWA to accompany our four children to attend the University of Arkansas. Our oldest two children have already graduated from UA. Our third child, Laurence, is graduating of December this year and our last child, Christine, is scheduled to graduate May 2017.
What makes a good leader? Providing the basic foundation to those you lead. Once they have a solid/strong foundation, you can let them go knowing that whatever they do or wherever they go, they will be at least OK and potentially grow.
Who do you admire professionally? My role model is my mom. She is uneducated and comes from a poor family, with a widowed mother of six. My mom demonstrates far-sightedness, always has a sense of humor, offers great advice, and is amazing in communication. She inspires me to be like her professionally. I am still not as good as her.
Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
What languages do you speak and how has that served you in your career? Mandarin Chinese, Malay and English, in addition to Hakka, Cantonese, Hokkien and Taiwanese (dialects). When I was working in Malaysia and Southeast Asia, these languages were very handy. In the U.S., my proficiency in English has not hampered my ability to assimilate in the U.S. society.
What has been the greatest challenge of your career? Passing the CEcD exam. [President] Steve Clark and the chamber had been awesome to offer me this professional development opportunity and I did not want to disappoint them or myself. Honestly, I failed the first time, so the pressure was even greater the second time around. I overcame it by reaching out for help — got myself a mentor, attended a refresher course and really bunkered down to study for the exam. It worked, and I passed on the second try.
How are you involved in the community? I sit on the Ozark Literary Board, and through our Chamber Champions program offered by the Chamber I get to volunteer eight hours every 90 days with our local nonprofits. It’s a wonderful program, because it enables me to learn about all the awesome things the local nonprofits are doing for our community.
If you had $1 million to donate, which causes would you support and why? I would support work on problem prevention at all levels — socially, educationally and medically. The common platform is information education.
What do you like to do in your spare time? I like watching movies, knitting and learning to cook new recipes.